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U.S. Pathologists Uphold Singapore Findings on Death of Maid

July 14, 1995

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A diplomatic dispute that has kept Singapore and the Philippines at a frosty distance for months edged toward resolution today with help from three American pathologists.

The pathologists, invited to examine the remains of a Filipino maid murdered in Singapore, have rejected the findings of Philippine coroners that she was badly beaten before she died.

The assertion reinforces Singapore’s contention that Delia Maga was killed by fellow Filipino maid Flor Contemplacion, and not by someone much stronger.

The Philippine government, in a statement issued through the Department of Foreign Affairs, said it ``accepts as final″ the findings.

Contemplacion was convicted of killing Maga in 1991 and was hanged in March. Millions of Filipinos believe she was framed, and the controversy has damaged relations between the two Southeast Asian nations.

Filipino experts who examined Maga’s skeleton nearly four years after she died said her body showed signs of severe beating that could have been inflicted only by a man. Singaporean doctors, who conducted an autopsy two days after her death, found no such signs.

The pathologists examined Maga’s remains in Washington this week at the request of Singapore and the Philippines.

A Philippine government statement today said the American pathologists determined Maga died of strangulation and that damage to her skull was caused by ``postmortem discoloration and decomposition.″

The controversy over the Maga killing and the Contemplacion hanging caused widespread protests in the Philippines against both Singapore and the government of Philippine President Fidel Ramos, whom critics accused of failing to support the convicted maid adequately.

A rift opened between the two countries after Singapore ignored appeals from Ramos to postpone the hanging pending new evidence that purportedly could have exonerated Contemplacion.

Manila recalled its ambassador from Singapore. She was later fired after an investigation concluded she and several embassy staffers failed to provide Contemplacion with enough support.

At one point, Ramos said he was prepared to cut diplomatic ties with Singapore if an investigation showed Contemplacion was convicted unjustly. The government later downplayed that statement.

Former Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo, forced to resign because of the controversy, said Singapore should not cheer the findings of the American pathologists and Filipinos should not ``cry over spilt milk.″

``Let’s move forward and let’s move forward positively,″ Romulo said.

The Contemplacion family’s lawyer, Romeo Capulong, said the two governments should not have anchored Contemplacion’s innocence solely on the results of the examination. He questioned the impartiality of the U.S. pathologists because the family was not permitted to participate in choosing them

``This is not only the concern of the two governments,″ he said. ``The higher concern is that of the family.″

The three pathologists were recommended by the American Board of Pathology.

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